The Chicken Buses of Central America

If you’ve ever wondered what happens to old school buses when they’re retired, wonder no more. Many of them become what’s known as “chicken buses” — colorful buses that become modes of transportation in Central America. U.S. school buses are typically auctioned off after around 10 years or 150,000 miles. There is a whole industry of people who travel to these auctions to acquire them for $2,000 or less, then drive them back to Central American countries, predominantly Guatemala. There, the school buses are transformed into something entirely different. Upon arrival, the buses are repaired and the familiar yellow paint is replaced by wild, colorful designs. The insides are jazzed up with Christmas lights, tassels, and posters of various kinds. Murals are airbrushed on the exterior, the exit doors normally plastered with wrestling posters, and there’s often a cranked-up sound system installed. Once renovated, Chicken buses become the most common — often only — form of public transportation.